SAVMP #4 The Impact of Trust
This summer I reread Max De Pree's Leadership is an Art. He made a
relevant point about how giving group members a say is a very good
practice as "Structures do not have anything to do with trust. People
build trust." (I might recap De Pree's Participative Management in a future post). I also read a tweet recently from @differNtiated4u that said "Are you committed or compliant?"
These two quotes had been rolling around in my head for a few days while I was starting to prepare for a return to school or as my kids call it 'the end ... of summer'. During a conversation with one of my kids I let them know that as the principal it is in my responsibility to ensure that the school is ready to roll for opening day. I had to answer that I don't get extra pay for the time I spend before opening day but it makes the world smoother in September to invest time in August. I then had a deeper reflection about this practice that meshed with the topic of #SAVMP week 4 - Trust.
Let me explain further with the example of two Superintendents with the same message:
"In August you must ensure that school is cleaned and ready to receive students,
in place, students are registered, and schedules are complete."
Superintendent 1 emphasizes the words 'AUGUST' and 'MUST'. Then acts with check ins, phone calls and scheduled meetings. The result is a team of adminstrators who are more Compliant (Inclined to obey rules, esp. to an excessive degree).
Superintendent 2 emphasizes the words 'ENSURE' and 'READY'. Then acts with a welcome back email. The result is a team of administrators who are more Committed (Entrusted, especially for safekeeping).
I am very fortunate to work with a team of superintendents who operate as Number 2 in the scenario. When I was first in administration we were more like Number 1 though. The modelling that I have experienced from our Superintendent in this practice alone has impacted my own leadership practice.
When I began this journey as a school principal I engaged as many staff as I could in conversations about the school, the community. Listening to staff reflect on themselves and their passions helped me
build trust. I didn't come in and tell people what to do and when to do
it, I let them tell me what they needed to do and when they needed to
do it. I began to foster committed staff not compliant staff.
Eventually we began speaking about their 'why'. Why did they work in a school, this school, this community....what was their PASSION for being there and for working with learners? I began encouraging staff to embrace things that work, release old ways, and try new things. We collectively dreamed about all the possibilities for our school community. I then had the staff make goals that they were passionate about, followed up with relevant PD, resources and where possible, time.
Committed staff get this early and run with it. They recognize that I will trust them to try explore, make mistakes (Get messy as Ms. Frizzle says). Their classrooms become places of energy and excitement. They also reflect on their journey and will make another change if it isn't working.
Compliant staff are cautious if not resistant. They want to know the expectations from above, the timeline for deployment and the consequences of failure. It will take a longer time to grow trust with these staff.
I will be the first to say that I have some pretty clay feet as an administrator but I think that we all do. That is why we need to operate as a team in our school. As our team experiences successes and continues to engage in healthy conversations about our best practices, I believe we all become more committed. I know that trust is at the heart of this relationship and I look forward to earning and keeping their trust every year.